Marine conservationist Paul Watson, founder and president of the group Sea Shepherd, was released from jail Monday after the group posted a €250,000 ($310,400) bond. Watson, a 61-year-old Canadian national, will be required to remain in Germany while the government evaluates a Costa Rican extradition request – a process that could take up to three months – on charges stemming from a 2002 high-seas confrontation off the Guatemalan coast.
Meanwhile, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla embarked on an official European visit Sunday that includes several stops in Germany, where she will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday. Meetings will focus on drawing more foreign investment to the tiny Central American nation, although Chinchilla also will deliver a speech at the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation in Berlin titled “Costa Rica: A democracy striving for a ‘green’ society, prosperity and innovation.”
Sea Shepherd is planning a global protest to mark Chinchilla’s visit, including a large demonstration in Berlin on Wednesday. Watson is expected to attend.
“We are calling for a Global Day of Action on Wednesday, May 23rd. On this day the President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, will be visiting German Chancellor Merkel in Berlin. Wednesday, May 23rd is S.O.S. Day – Save Our Skipper,” the group posted on its website.
Sea Shepherd urged followers around the world to protest at German embassies and consulates Wednesday morning.
The conservation group also claimed that the Taiwanese mafia – which controls a large part of the global shark-fin trade – had taken out a $20,000 contract on Watson’s life for the his work combating marine poachers.
“We are confident that through your participation, Germany will not carry out an extradition that would be the same as carrying out a death sentence,” the group said in a statement to supporters. “Captain Paul Watson’s enemies within the shark fin mafia are capable of reaching inside the prisons of Costa Rica. If extradited to Costa Rica, it is unlikely Captain Paul Watson would live to see the inside of a Costa Rican courthouse.”
Over the weekend, the Costa Rican presidency and foreign ministries issued a joint statement seeking to justify the Costa Rican arrest warrant, issued last October, and steps the country has taken to promote local conservation.
“Costa Rica’s [conservation] efforts include implementing a formula for development that is in harmony with nature, recognizing that it is written in our Constitution that every citizen has the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. Costa Rica’s efforts have made it possible for the country to be one of the five most environmentally protected countries in the world,” the official statement said.
“Costa Rican legislation fights head on the practice known as shark finning. … Costa Rica has undertaken, together with other countries in the region, notable administrative, judicial and political efforts to eradicate the practice. … [Costa Rica] is spearheading an effort at the Convention for International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) to include the hammerhead shark on the list of species protected from international commercial exploitation and trafficking, a campaign carried out with the support of local nongovernmental organizations like Pretoma and MarViva. …”
The statement said the arrest warrant was issued after “Mr. Watson decided to take justice into his own hands,” and that “the attempted sinking of a Costa Rican fishing boat happened because, according to [Watson], the Costa Rican boat supposedly was fishing sharks for their fins; however, that accusation has never been proven.”
“On the contrary, what has been demonstrated by a video created by [Watson’s] assistants is that [Watson’s] boat rammed the Costa Rican fishing boat,” the statement said.